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Total Eclipse Moves Off U.S. East Coast; Trump Unveils New Afghanistan Plan To Nation Tonight; GOP's Collins": "Difficult To Say" If Trump Nominee In 2020; Trump, Who Backed Afghanistan Withdrawal, To Unveil Plan; Trump To Address Nation Amid Turmoil Credibility Questions; New Fallout From Bannon's Rocky Exit From White House; Aired 3:00 - 3:30p ET

Aired August 21, 2017 - 15:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: United States concluded off the coast of South Carolina as people gather to watch the moon completely block the sun's surface which is known totality. However, partial eclipse will remain for about another hour. Chad Myer, describing -- describes what's -- you know, Chad, just describe just what's happening right now. We're looking at Columbia, South Carolina where the totality has passed, but it's still -- I mean, I want to get (INAUDIBLE) about this. It's still a remarkable image of a partial eclipse.

CHAD MYER, METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, and no question about it. And the eclipse, this -- the totality now is offshore, so there are a couple cruise ships that did do a cruise offshore, as you said total eclipse of the heart is going to be on that cruise ship as it happens, kind of a stand on the back of your -- hair in the back of your neck moment, too as well, but I don't think this disappointed at all. This was a highly anticipated event, so many people were in the path of this totality, certainly a lot safer than chasing tornadoes, yet I think probably just as spectacular for those that saw it.

And there were 12 million people in the path that lived in the path and there were at least that many, if not that twice many that drove into the path to get to that totality eclipse and just for a couple of spots. A few spots over the -- over the United States from about Beatrice and Unadilla and maybe Nebraska City down to St. Joe, Missouri, that had some cloud cover that kind of ruined it for some people and that but the rest of the country really had a spectacular show.

COOPER: Yes, my assistant Joey took the day off flew all the way to Wyoming was camping out in a field and said it was just incredible, incredible experience. He has been Instagraming about it. I want to go back to Kaylee in South Carolina. Kaylee, you've been talking to some more people?

KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN REPORTER: I have, Anderson. And just as quickly as the clouds parted here off it goes to Charleston, they have returned. Who here wants to take credit for that incredible view we got?

LINDA: I do, I do, I do. That was my job for the day, was to get rid of the clouds, have it be very, very cool all day and then just in times for the eclipse and the totality have the clouds part. And it cooperated beautifully.


HARTUNG: How do you describe the emotions of witnessing that in the place where you live?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I've been here like Linda, we're neighbors and I -- I've never felt that emotional to be among hundreds of people and you can hear a pin drop. It was just like everybody was spellbound because probably none of us have ever seen that before or felt that before. It was wonderful and we met a new friend from Dallas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. Yes, I mean, yes, everybody, you know, prior to the eclipse, everybody was very active and doing, you know, normal beach activities and then everything just stopped, everybody was mesmerized. And the crowds parted, perfect timing and, you know, it was kind of overcast a lot during the day and couldn't have asked for a better timing of it. I mean, it was just magical experience, it really was.

HARTUNG: Now, for the people who live on this island, how long have you all been preparing for this day?

LINDA: We have been preparing for more than a year and a half for today. We were accustomed to large crowds because we have heavy beach visitation for Memorial Day and 4th of July. We've got a fantastic city team. We all work together, it's all hands on deck for day light today. And everybody did a beautiful job. I'm so grateful and I feel like I'm sort of bonded with this crowd out here forever. Isle of Palms is really a special place and it's even more special because of what happened today.

HARTUNG: For all that planning, do you feel like today lived up to your expectations?

LINDA: Absolutely. We still have more to come. Plain Jane's is going to be playing out here until after 4 o'clock. So hopefully the day will just get better.

HARTUNG: Now, just in the moments after the eclipse finished in totality, we're already seeing people packing up and headed home, but Anderson, the party will continue here as these kind folks tell me as everyone here continues to enjoy what is a beautiful and cool day, unusually cool for South Carolina.

LINDA: It certainly is. August and September are two of our hottest months.



COOPER: Well, thank you...

HARTUNG: Back to you, Anderson. COOPER: Yes, thank you so much and please thank them for spending some time with us this afternoon, April 4th, 2024 is the next time a solar -- a full solar eclipse is going to be witnessed like this. I think I'm going to take the day off because I want to see this in person. Let's go to CNN's Ian Lee on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship. Ian, where are you and what are you seeing at this point?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Anderson, we are about 400 miles off the east coast of Florida. And this is the last spot where this eclipse will be seen. It is just a sliver right now. I can see -- look up and see the moon and the sun just about to converge. A lot of people here are anxious, you know, waiting to see what's going to happen. But Anderson, this isn't the only star that people have been watching. Bonnie Tyler was here, she performed "Total Eclipse Of The Heart," the people loved it, so they gathered to see it.

We also, DNCE, that band was performing here as well, but right now all eyes are looking up at the solar eclipse as it's about to happen. And as you can see, it's just getting darker and darker right now as the moon is about to move in front of sun, Anderson.

COOPER: So, are you close -- about how far away is totality?

LEE: It really at any moment now. It's -- and -- it's getting dark and I think we're getting there. Let me just check. It's supposed to happen in about three minutes' time but as you can see now it's just getting darker and darker. It's very eerie. I mean, we should also point out we're in the Bermuda Triangle, Anderson. So, the lights are coming on and it's just getting -- it's almost like it's becoming night. It's -- it kind of gives you chill as you watch...


LEE: The sun is getting blotted out of the sky by the moon.

COOPER: Yes, if you can have your camera person to maybe panel around and show some of the crowd or whatever we can see and let's listen into the sounds.

LEE: Yes, we'll move around to show you.


LEE: Moving around and show you what we're seeing right now, but I mean, it is...

COOPER: Let's just listen into the sounds on the ship.

LEE: People are...

COOPER: So Ian, at this point there is -- it's totality?

LEE: Right now it is totality. It is completely dark and we can see the actual -- you know, the ring around the moon. It is -- it is something to behold, Anderson, I really -- it's hard to describe how just a force of nature we're witnessing. And you can see across the horizon, too. It's just the shadow that's cast across the earth. You can see it on the sea. You can see it in the clouds in the distance. Everyone right now just taking pictures of what's happening. They're just really enjoying this once in a lifetime moment and a really for many people, that's what this is, a time where they'll probably be telling their children and their grandchildren about the time they saw the moon blot out the sun.

COOPER: I'm wondering, just out on the water, how much -- do you feel a big temperature drop?

LEE: You know, we've been feeling that, Anderson, throughout the day or as this has been happening. We've been watching it slowly and the temperature has been dropping. You know, we're in -- we're in the, you know, out down south, sailing then towards the Caribbean. It's supposed to be warm, it's supposed to be hot, humid, but right now it is very cool and the humidity has just dropped as well. It's very eerie how just on a flip, really, the entire environment, the temperature has changed, and really, you see the people, it gives you goose bumps just to be able witness this phenomena happening. The sun still just a ring around the moon.

COOPER: And Ian, imagine, a lot of the people you were talking on that ship, I mean, did they book this cruise a long time with this in mind?

LEE: That's right. Oh, Anderson, it's -- here it comes. The sun is coming back, the sun is coming back, so people are cheering. It didn't go away permanently, but yes, you're right, people have booked this cruise with this in mind, this eclipse, but also Bonnie Tyler was a big draw as well. I'm told that the final cabin, Anderson to book it was $15,000. So there was either a big solar eclipse fan or a big "Eclipse Of The Heart" fan who booked that, Anderson.

COOPER: OK. And how much -- and for how long will those who are going to be out at sea?

LEE: This is a -- this is a seven-day cruise. You know, the thing about it is this initially wasn't planned to happen. They were going to -- this is just a normal cruise, but once they found out that this eclipse was happening, the captain, the Royal Caribbean, they had a meteorologist all got together to find out that perfect spot, so that spot's where the totality was going to hit, but also cloud coverage. There have been some clouds today and they wanted to make sure to avoid as many clouds as possible, so there has been a lot of planning and since the early morning, since this cruise really took off, they have been gunning it, all six engines have on this ship have been working nonstop.

We've been going at about top speed to make it to the point so people can enjoy the totality. And as you can see, the sun is starting to come up, it's starting to warm up again, getting back to normal, back to the tropical weather that you would expect, but, you know, for many people there are those who plan for and those who didn't plan for. Those -- this is just their normal cruise and talking to them. I mean, they feel like they've won the lottery not only did they get to see the solar eclipse from the cruise but they also got to see Bonnie Tyler, DNCE. It really was quite the treat for the over 6,000 people who were on board this cruise ship, Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. And the fun continues. Ian Lee, thank you so much, I really appreciate it. Do you get -- and by the way, Ian, do you get to stay on the cruise for the rest of the seven days?

LEE: I got to get out halfway through. I would love to say, but, you know, it is what it is. I'm enjoying the moments I get. I got a tropical drink waiting for me.

COOPER: All right. Well, Ian, thanks to you and your crew. Appreciate it. I just want to get some quick reaction from the folks we've been witnessing this extraordinary event over the last two or so hours. Chris Hadfield is with us, Miles O'Brien, and David DeVorkin. Chris, I mean, now, that it is -- it is over, I'm just wondering for you, what are -- what are some of the key moments, the highlights? What withstands out for you?

CHRIS HADFIELD, ASTRONAUT: Today's event made million look up and think beyond what they normally think about. I think that's really significant. It's so easy to get wrapped up and the kind of overwhelming events of the day and it's nice to be reminded of things that are bigger than ourselves. And one of the students that I tutor travelled down to Nashville today with his family, and for him to see this, to put that into his understanding of who he is and who we are altogether really looking forward to sitting with him when we both get home together and hearing what it meant to him to see this event.

COOPER: Yes. Miles O'Brien? I'm sure you have seen it before, but for you what stands out?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: You know, Anderson, I'm a newbie. This was my first, so it's been great. Really is. I did an annular eclipse in '94, it's my first total eclipse. You know, for me it's the dichotomy, Anderson. It's a reminder of how much we know, the fact that we can predict it to the second, and yet how many questions we still have. It's a reminder of how we as humans have evolved and how smart we are, and yet, how when something like this happens, we unleash primal screams and go back to our origins in some respects.

It's a reminder of how small we are in the universe, what (INAUDIBLE) we are, where we are the whole grand scheme of things and yet, how special and unusual our place is in the universe. This is the only place we know of in the universe where this happens, where the moon happens to be 400 times smaller than the sun and yet 400 times closer to us, and therefore giving us this amazing show. So I'm taken aback by this tug, internal tug which is I think what made the experience so special.

COOPER: Yes. David DeVorkin, as we look at that incredible moment of totality, for you what stands out?

DAVID DEVORKIN, SR. CURATOR, SMITHSONIAN NATL. AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM: What really stands out for me is the fact that I've just experienced the progress of an eclipse all the way across the United States thanks to CNN. It has really been a terrific experience to see the ubiquity of -- the excitement across the United States and to see the sun changing in subtle ways and just it took us -- it certainly took me in a transformative way beyond my daily working life. Although I must say we have been preparing for this eclipse for a year at the Air and Space Museum. We are just more than gratified and absolutely thrilled at the wonderful response. Oh, boy, there goes that diamond ring. I can never get enough of those diamond rings.

COOPER: And David, it's also just a reminder of all the thousands of people who were at NASA, in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and, you know, listening stations, satellite stations all across the world, you know, who are working around the clock, you know, every single day of the year to learn as much as we can about all the things we still don't know much about.

DEVORKIN: That's exactly right. This is a worldwide effort. This is a world of instant communication and we have seen it today.

COOPER: Well, our thanks to you and our thanks to all of the men and women of NASA and elsewhere who have studied this, have helped us with our knowledge of this and April 4th, 2024, it's going to happen again. I hope you join us for that or witness it in person. Coming up next, more news. The president gearing up to address the nation tonight. Set to unveil his new plan for the war in Afghanistan. New details and what to expect ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. President Trump is just hours away from his first primetime address where the president will unveil his long- believe strategy for Afghanistan and ask the nation to trust his leadership on the nation's longest war. Kaitlan Collins is at the White House where the president returned last night. So -- I mean, I think a lot of people forget, this is the nation's longest war so far, the president's first primetime address. What are we expecting to hear tonight?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we're going to hear him lay out the strategy tonight, Anderson. We don't know details, but we do know the president made a final decision on Saturday, he announced that on Twitter after he had met with his national security team at Camp David the day before. We know that he's been presented with a range of options going from completely withdrawing from Afghanistan to even adding roughly 4,000 troops. So we're going to see what the president chooses tonight.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said he was not going to give any details out, he was going to wait and let it come from the president himself tonight, he's going to make that address from Fort Myer right outside of us here in Washington to an audience made up of military members, but this is a big moment for the president, Anderson because this is his -- he's essentially asking Americans to trust him with this decision about Afghanistan in a time when his leadership capability has really come under fire in the light of the comments he made about the Charlotte -- the violence in Charlottesville last week. So that's what we're going to see tonight. And if he does go the route of adding troops in Afghanistan, he's going to have to explain to the American people why he thinks that's the best choice now because we know this is something that he railed against in the years before he became a candidate for president, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, obviously it's very easy when you're not the president to rail against something and then the president get a different perspective. We'll see exactly what he says tonight. Thank you very much, I want to bring in, David Chalian, CNN political director. I mean, David, for years Donald Trump did call for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. It sounds as if he's about to pull back on that.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, speedy withdrawal, it's time to get out of Afghanistan. These were his tweets, you know, within the last three, four, five years, and obviously, if he does indeed go before the country tonight, Anderson and make the case for sending additional troops, he will be break with the position that he held in the past but perhaps more precariously for the president, he'll be breaking fundamentally with some of the core beliefs of his most fervent supporters.

You know, Steve Bannon, who just left the White House, was one adviser inside the White House arguing against any of this increase because this is not the kind of foreign policy sort of greater intervention that Donald Trump he ran on and connected with his basis to support on.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, one of the things that Donald Trump when he was campaigning was spoke against was the idea of nation building and though that's not a term that's, you know, the U.S. likes to use about what the United States had been doing in Afghanistan, that is a lot basically of what the U.S. military has had try to do in Afghanistan.

CHALIAN: Yes, he made that case time and again, that the U.S. treasury, money should not be spent over there, that instead it should be spent on things like rebuilding our infrastructure over here. Those are the arguments he had made on the campaign trail throughout the entire presidential campaign. So now, sort of he -- the extra burden I would say is on the president when he goes before the American people tonight to sort of explain the rationale in a way that fits with his overall vision that he campaigned on.

COOPER: One of the other difficulties he has as commander-in-chief is that, I mean, his moral authority has been -- has been questioned time and time again, his -- not only his judgment but his honesty has been questioned today. Senator Susan Collins from Maine said something, they got a lot of attention. I want to play what she said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's already running for reelection, what happens then?

SEN SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: Well, it's far too early to tell now. It's a long way between now and that point.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think he will end up the party's nominee in 2020?

COLLINS: It's too difficult to say.


COOPER: Pretty stunning for her to say that it's too difficult to say that the sitting president may not be the party's nominee next time.

CHALIAN: I can't really think of a parallel where somebody from the president's own party an incumbent president would have that said about them. It is stunning indeed and you are right to point out the timing here. I mean, the president just came off what may have been the worst week of his presidency in terms of this very issue of moral authority that the offense brings with it, being called into question, but again, by his own fellow republicans like Senator Tim Scott, as he attempts tonight to sort of turn the page from that.

If he is doing so at a time asking the American people to follow him along at the most important kind of decision a president announces, sending more Americans into war, doing that at the very same time that the country has expressed concern overall in polls, members of his own party have expressed concern that he is not living up to the stature of the office he holds.

COOPER: Yes. David Chalian, appreciate it. A lot to watch more tonight more on tonight's announcement. I want to now bring in Jack Murphy, the eight year Army Special Operations veteran who served in Afghanistan. Thanks so much for being with us.


COOPER: I'm wondering what you're looking to hear tonight, what your expectations are for what the president is going to say.

MURPHY: Well, I think unfortunately my expectations are that he's going to announce yet another troop surge and this is something that's been tried again and again and again, but what we learned, you know, well over a decade ago is that surging more troops into an area doesn't mean that there's going to be more targets for them to hit. It doesn't mean that there's going to be more actionable intelligence for them to participate in or act on. So what another troop surge is going to accomplish in Afghanistan I don't really know. I don't think anyone really understands.

COOPER: So much of the focus obviously has been on training afghan forces and they've had success with more special units, command units and things which there are a number of and most of the battles that have been fought have been by those afghan commando units among afghan troops I'm talking about, but just, you know -- I remember being there in May of 2002 and it was special forces in Kabul training the afghan national army. And that was -- you know, that was 2002 and we're still in position where it seems like the big focus is, well, we need to train more, you know, these troops more. What is the difficulty of -- with the training?

MURPHY: Well, I think it comes from a number of things. The primary thing I would say that the mistake we make is try to mirror American military forces in the foreign military forces that we train. So we try to train them along the same lines as our four 3structure, our own tables of organization and equipment, when these are really tribes their disunified, their fractured all over the place and we can't necessarily train them and mold them in the same image as the U.S. military.

COOPER: Interesting.

MURPHY: It's going to have cultural specific to that country.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, because you can make the argument that, you know, Taliban fighters don't have the level of training that...

MURPHY: They are not being trained by U.S. (INAUDIBLE)

COOPER: Right, but -- and yet they are seeming to have successes on the battlefield.

MURPHY: Yes, absolutely. And that raises some really profound questions about how we go about nation building, how we go about what we call foreign internal defense, when we train the afghan forces. And I think we want to radically revisit these problems and use a little bit more creativity than just another troop surge.

COOPER: The other problem is, you know, there's been a lot of situations where there's afghan national police or the current members of the afghan army killing American forces who are there to help train them. So, I mean, it is -- it's just the idea of sending in trainers which in past years people would say, well, it's -- you know, this is just a training mission, isn't there -- it's not active combat. I mean, you're in a combat zone, you know (INAUDIBLE) on the line.

MURPHY: Well, and that's a thing about these training missions is that we use phrases like that like training mission and that's more politically acceptable because it sounds safer, but really it doesn't really take into account or project or signal to the American public the inherit danger and the quagmire that we put our soldiers into. And when they're deploying year after year, and unfortunately our young men and women are coming home in body bags, we owe them a better strategy and a better way for it. We...

COOPER: Also just the sheer amount of money that has been poured into Afghanistan, and, you know, there are real questions about where some of that money has gone. (INAUDIBLE) mentions popping up in Kabul owned by generals in the afghan army and you were, like, how did they make that -- how did they get that (INAUDIBLE)

MURPHY: How much of it goes into graft and corruption. I remember we were warlords millions of dollars for gravel, to line the gravel for our operating days in Afghanistan. It's outrageous and it's insulting and we owe our troops much better than this.

COOPER: I appreciate your perspective...


COOPER: ...Jack Murphy. Coming up next, not going quietly, new details emerging about the original plan for Steve Bannon's exit for the West Wing and the bad blood he's leaving behind involving Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump back in a moment.